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The Sexual Rights Initiative

During the 49th session of the Conference on Population and Development (CPD) in New York, the Sexual Rights Initiative (SRI) officially launched the National Sexual Rights Law and Policy Database. We spoke with Meghan Doherty and Neha Sood, Policy and Advocacy officers Action Canada and SRI,  about the importance of this database and how it could support local communities to improve their sexual rights.


Why is the Sexual Rights Database so important?

“The Sexual Rights Database helps to make information on laws and policies related to sexual rights accessible to a wide audience. Activists, advocates and students, as well as academics, policy makers and diplomats can use the database in a number of ways. For instance, the database can help advocates in negotiations at the UN level to clarify country positions and domestic policies on sexual rights. Conversely, the information from the database could also be used by States to formulate recommendations on their own laws and policies on sexual rights. It helps to assess where national laws and policies could be stronger or more in line with international human rights standards, and to make recommendations for reforming national laws and policies.”




“The database is a very visual tool, enabling its users to get a good picture of the sexual rights situation in different regions in a country. So, if you are an NGO active in a certain country, the database might show you that this country is the only one in the region that does not criminalise marital rape. This way the database can be an important tool in persuading the government to adapt a law in relation to criminalising marital rape, a great advocacy tool in that respect.”


What can the tool mean for local communities that advocate at the national level to their government?

“In most countries laws in relation to sexual rights are not so straightforward. The tool can be useful in finding out what the laws and policies actually say. This is always a good starting point in advocacy. Local communities can compare the laws and policies in their country with more progressive policies and laws in other countries and use these as an example for their own government to show how things can be better.

The intersections between different law and policy frameworks can also be explored through this database. For instance, you can imagine that a community organization that works on abortion access, is very aware of the policy framework around this in its own country. But, with additional information from the database, they might make connections to other laws and policies for example on age and consent laws or on policies on contraception. This way, the database could help to work across different sexual rights issues, and make the connection between different policies in the country. As a result, they could tackle a range of issues to improve sexual rights for the communities that they work with.”


Does the tool also provide a connection to commitments states make internationally?

“The database does not necessarily capture which treaties a State may have ratified. There are other accessible public sources of information that provide this type of information. However, we hope that this database supports advocates to hold States accountable for their laws and policies and to encourage them to bring policies and commitments more in line with international human rights standards and obligations.”


The Sexual Rights Initiative database is a one-stop-shop for national Constitutions, laws and policies related to sexual rights, including reproductive rights and sexual and reproductive health. Here you can find more information.

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